Along with everything else, Hurricane Harvey took with it decades worth of files, maps, notes, coordinates, names and research I had on my external hard drive; so for the time being, this site will be on hiatus until I finish republishing. I will upload as I go, so each post will reappear on its original date and can be found in the Archive section in the right sidebar. If you need to contact me for any reason in the duration, my contact info is found in my profile. Wish me luck, guys. - JES

April 30, 2010

Paul Neal "Red" Adair

   Paul Neal "Red" Adair, the Texas oil well firefighter, was born on June 18, 1915, in Houston, Texas, to Charles and Mary Adair. He had four brothers and three sisters. Red grew up in the Houston Heights and went to school at Harvard Elementary, Hogg Junior High, and Reagan High School, where he was an all-city halfback for the football team when he was in the ninth grade. Though Red hoped to go to college, he had to drop out of high school to help support his family in 1930 as the Great Depression caused his father to close down his blacksmith shop. Red held many types of jobs after dropping out of high school, including a short showing as a semi-professional boxer. In 1936 he went to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

   In 1938 Red obtained his first job working with oil when he joined the Otis Pressure Control Company. He worked in the oil fields of Texas and neighboring states until he was drafted into the US Army in 1945, where he served with the 139th Bomb Disposal Squadron and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. While in the Army, Red learned about controlling explosions and fires. He was with the 139th disposing bombs in Japan until the spring of 1946.

   When Red returned to Houston after serving his time in the Army, he was hired by Myron Kinley of the M. M. Kinley Company, one of the innovators for oil well blowouts and fire control. Red worked for Kinley for fourteen years helping put out oil well fires and capping oil blowouts. In 1959 he resigned from M. M. Kinley and formed his own company, The Red Adair Company, Inc. Through the techniques he learned from Kinley and disposing bombs for the army, Red was able to develop many tools and strategies to control oil well and natural gas well blowouts and fires. The Red Adair Company became a world-renowned name for fighting oil well fires. Red put out fires both inland and offshore all around the world. On average, the company put out forty-two fires every year.

   By 1961 Red became famous in oil fields around the world. He had put out the offshore CATCO oil fire in 1959 and many other fires both inland and offshore. In November 1961 a Phillip's Petroleum gas well in Algeria had a blowout. The flames from the blowout fire reached heights of over 700 feet and burned 550 million cubic feet of gas per day. The flames were so high, astronaut John Glenn reported seeing the fire from space. The fire came to be known as the Devil's Cigarette Lighter.

   Red made it to the fire in late November of 1961. He spent months preparing to put out the flame and cap the well. Red had enormous equipment built on-site to handle the pillar of fire. Since the fire was in the Sahara Desert, water had to be pumped from wells and stored in three reservoirs, each ten feet deep and the size of a football field. Red had several bulldozers customized with special housing units and fitted with hooks to pull away debris. After all preparations had been made, men and equipment were soaked with water constantly as they carefully approached the fire in their famous red coveralls and helmets. Nitroglycerin was then placed near the base of the fire. When the nitroglycerin was ignited, the explosion sucked the oxygen from the air and drowned out the fire. Red had been using this technique for years, and had learned a great deal about it from Myron Kinley. Once the fire was blown out, Red's team removed the wellhead and capped the well on May 28, 1962, six months after it had ignited.

   Red Adair was already known in oil and gas fields around the world, but blowing out the Devil's Cigarette Lighter made him an icon. He put out several more notable fires in his career including an offshore rig in Louisiana in 1970 and a 1977 blowout in the North Sea. In 1988 a huge explosion at the Piper Alpha Rig off the coast of Scotland brought Red even more renown. Using the ship he helped design, the Tharos, Red approached what was left of the offshore rig and used the ship's unique equipment to put out fires and cap the wells. At seventy-three, Red was no longer able to jump from a ship to an oil rig, so he had two of his men climb onto what was left of Piper Alpha to clear debris. Once most of the debris was cleared, the men began to put out the fires using nitroglycerin and the ocean water. On some days the wind would blow in just the right direction and help put the water right where it needed to be. On other days the seventy mile-per-hour wind worked against them. Eventually Red and his team were able to put out the fires and cap the wells.

   The Piper Alpha blaze brought Red in the public eye once again. Red continued to put out fires around the world, and in 1991, he helped put out many oil fires in Kuwait. At the closing of the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's armies retreated from Kuwait igniting many oil wells in order to keep them out of the hands of the Kuwaitis and Americans. Red was hired to put out the flames. More than one hundred wells were ignited, and putting them out was estimated to take three to five years. Red extinguished 117 burning wells in nine months.

   On top of working in the field as much as he could, Red also designed and developed many different types of firefighting equipment. At the age of nineteen he had designed a lever that could haul coal from railroad cars. His equipment was so innovative, that he formed a separate company, The Red Adair Service and Marine Company, in 1972 to sell firefighting equipment to others in the industry. Red liked to rig bulldozers with special fittings to keep heat out. He would also fix long beams on the bulldozers and use those beams to put nitroglycerin into a blaze or even use those beams like a fixed crane to bring in heavy materials. One of Red's most famous designs was the semi-submersible firefighting vessel, used to fight offshore oil well fires. Red designed several ships for oil companies around the world, many of which are still in use today.

   Red's work brought him many awards. He received the Walton Clark Medal Citation from the Franklin Institute. The city of Houston presented Red with both the Outstanding Houstonian Award and the Houston Distinguished Sales and Citizenship Award. After his popularity skyrocketed when he put out the Devil's Cigarette Lighter, a film was loosely based on Red's life. The movie Hellfighters, starring John Wayne, was released in 1968. Red served as a technical advisor. Although much of his fame came from his reputation as a daredevil, Red was also known to be a stickler when it came to safety. Red always boasted that none of his men had ever been killed or seriously injured while working for him.

   In 1993 Red Adair finally retired and sold the Red Adair Company. He then started Adair Enterprises as a consulting company that helped other firefighters. Many of Red's firefighters went on to form their own companies after working for him. Boots Hansen and Coots Matthews broke away from The Red Adair Company in 1978 to form their own firefighting company. They eventually merged with another group of firefighters that had once worked for Red. Although he retired from actual firefighting and fieldwork in 1993, Red stayed active in the firefighting business until he died at the age of eighty-nine on August 7, 2004, in the city of Houston. He was survived by his wife Kemmie and a son and daughter. Source

COORDINATES
29° 43.358, -095° 18.226

Abbey Mausoleum
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery
Houston

April 23, 2010

Carlos Bee

   Carlos Bee, lawyer, politician, and legislator, the son of Mildred (Tarver) and Hamilton P. Bee, was born on July 8, 1867, at either Saltillo, Coahuila, or Monterrey, Nuevo León. His parents were temporarily residing in Mexico after the collapse of the Confederacy, but they returned to San Antonio, Texas, in 1874. Bee attended San Antonio schools and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University). He studied law while working as a railway mail clerk in the judge advocate's office at Fort Sam Houston, was admitted to the bar in 1893, and began to practice law in San Antonio. For two years he served as United States commissioner for the Western District of Texas, and he was district attorney of the Thirty-seventh District for six years, 1898-1905. He was a member of the Bexar County school board for two years, 1906-08. In 1904 Bee was chairman of the state Democratic convention and a delegate to the national Democratic convention at St. Louis. As a member of the Texas Senate for two terms, 1915-19, he introduced a compulsory school bill and a fifty-four-hour work week for women. He was elected to the Sixty-sixth Congress (1919-21) and subsequently resumed his law practice in San Antonio. Bee married Mary Kyle Burleson of Austin. He died in San Antonio on April 20, 1932, and was buried in the City Cemetery. He was survived by his second wife, Mary Elizabeth. Source

COORDINATES
29° 25.193, -098° 27.806

Section 4
Confederate Cemetery
San Antonio

April 20, 2010

Therman B. "Sonny" Fisher

   Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Therman Fisher, better known as “Sonny,” was born on November 13, 1931, in Chandler, Texas. He was known for being a pioneering rockabilly artist in the 1950s. Combining together the blues and country genres, the “Wild Man from Texas” was one of the many American rockabilly artists of the 1950s who was unable to make it big in his regional markets but became popular in Europe as a result of a growing interest in the genre in the late 1970s.

   Sonny Fisher was born on a farm in the small town of Chandler. Shortly after he was born, the family relocated to Tacoma, Washington, where Fisher grew up listening to his father sing and play the guitar. Ultimately settling in Houston, Fisher formed the Rocking Boys in the early 1950s after seeing Elvis Presley perform in 1954 at the Paladium. Teaming up with bassist Leonard Curry, drummer Darrell Newsome, and guitarist Joey Long, the group appeared alongside artists such as Elvis, George Jones, and Tommy Sands at shows in Houston and Beaumont. Fisher paid for his own recording session with engineer Bill Quinn at his Gold Star Studios in Houston, and his “Elvis-like” performance caught the attention of Quinn who alerted Jack Starnes of Starday Records. In early 1955 Fisher signed a one-year contract with H. W. “Pappy” Daily of Starday. Daily later recorded J. P. “Big Bopper” Richardson, George Jones, and others. Starnes served as Fisher’s manager.

   Fisher’s next recording session took place in January 1955 at Quinn’s studio. His records released under the Starday label included Rockin’ Daddy/Hold Me Baby, Hey Mama/Sneaky Pete, and I Can’t Lose/Rockin’ and Rollin’; Rockin’ Daddy became a regional hit. After receiving a royalty check from Starday for only $126, however, Fisher refused to sign with the label again. Fisher attempted to start his own record label, Columbus Records. With little success, he left the music scene in 1965 to dedicate his time to his floor-laying business. The singer’s entire 1950s output was composed of a mere eight songs, all recorded in the years 1955 and 1956.

   In 1980 Ted Carroll and Roger Armstrong of Ace Records in London gathered the eight songs Fisher had recorded between 1955 and 1956 and combined them on a 10” LP, entitling it Texas Rockabilly. The album launched the record label and caused a popular rockabilly revival throughout Europe. Following the release of Texas Rockabilly, Fisher recorded an EP of new material for the label in May 1980. From 1981 to 1983, he played shows throughout Europe with artists such as Eddie Fontaine, Gene Summers, Billy Hancock, and Jack Scott. After moving back to Texas, Fisher visited Spain in 1993 to record with veteran rockabilly artist Sleepy LaBeef and the Spanish band Los Solitarios. Fisher disappeared from the public eye shortly thereafter. Despite his disappearance, the singer left a lasting impression on Europe, embodying the essence of early Texas rockabilly to his fans.

   Fisher died on October 8, 2005 in Houston. Funeral services were held at Brookside Funeral Home, and the musician was buried at Brookside Memorial Park. Fisher was survived by daughters Vicky Daigle, Kimberly Eason, and Felisha Evans; sons Gary Bennett Fisher, Tony Wayne Fisher, Gordon B. Fisher, and Wendell C Fisher; sister Judy Weber; and brothers Charles and Carl Frieley; as well as nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Source

COORDINATES
29° 54.940, -095° 18.860

Section 47
Brookside Memorial Park
Houston